Thunder beat Kings, continue chase for first
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With Oscar Robertson sitting courtside and soaking up the crowd’s adulation in recognition of his Hall of Fame career, it would have been a fitting occasion for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant to record the first triple-double of his career.
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of his triple-double season in 1961-62 — the only one in NBA history — the “Big O” was being recognized by the Sacramento franchise on Friday night. Playing for the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson had an amazing 41 triple-doubles that season.
Durant would be thrilled to just have one.
He came close against the Kings, getting 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Thunder to a 103-92 victory.
“I’ve been flirting all season with it but I haven’t been able to seal the deal yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully I will get one before my career is over. Oscar Robertson is a legend, someone I really look up to. It was a joy playing in front of him tonight.”
Known mostly for his scoring early in his career, Durant has evolved into an all-around player and is a strong candidate for MVP this season. He played like one against the Kings. Durant made 9 of 15 shots, including two 3s, hit 9 of 10 free throws, and was the game’s leading rebounder.
“We all know that Kevin can score,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “But he has to continue making his teammates better. He definitely did that tonight with seven assists. He’s a very unselfish basketball player.”
The Thunder took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and went on to their second consecutive victory and fourth in five games.
Oklahoma City (46-17) remained in contention for the best record in the Western Conference. The Thunder are one-half game behind San Antonio and have three games remaining, including Tuesday against the visiting Kings. The Spurs defeated the Lakers at home on Friday.
James Harden had 20 points and Russell Westbrook scored 18 for the Thunder, who have a 7-5 record in April. Serge Ibaka had 12 points and eight of the Thunder’s 11 blocks and Kendrick Perkins had 10 points.
“We had to guard three of the most difficult guys in the league. Those guys — James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant — can score,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “Then of course you throw the big guys in there and you can see why they’re one of the best teams in the NBA.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who have lost nine of 10. Tyreke Evans scored 16 points, Jason Thompson added 13, Isaiah Thomas 12 and Jimmer Fredette 11 for the Kings (20-43), who are tied with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Kings had their problems offensively against the aggressive Thunder, who tend to gamble with a shot-blocker like Ibaka and the tenacious Perkins backing them up. Sacramento shot 41 percent and was the 12th team in 15 games that Oklahoma City held under 100 points.
“They play good team defense and obviously with Ibaka and Perkins down low it’s a tough matchup for anybody,” Fredette said. “Then they have some great scorers and move the ball so well.”
The Kings trimmed the Thunder’s 15-point lead to eight with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, aided by Fredette’s six points. But the Thunder kept their composure down the stretch to maintain the lead and preserve the victory.
“We made them miss shots in the second half and I thought we rebounded better in the second half,” Brooks said. “We did a great job of moving the ball. Everybody had shots, everybody had looks, and Kevin was solid.”
At halftime, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson talked about opening the line of communications with the Kings owners regarding plans for a tentative new downtown arena that fell apart last week. Johnson, who has been very critical of the owners’ decision, met with the Maloofs in Las Vegas on Friday and will talk sometime again next week.
“I understand a little bit of where George’s (Maloof) perspective was,” Johnson said. “Not that I fully agree with it, but I fully understand his perspective. It (today) was a solid step forward.”
It’s been another difficult season for the Kings both on and off the court. Besides the arena plan seemingly derailed, Sacramento has experienced its sixth straight losing season.
Durant made all three shots in the third quarter, including two 3s, and had eight points to help the Thunder lead 81-70 after three.
After Thomas’ 3-pointer pulled the Kings within three points, the Thunder ran off eight straight points. Westbrook banked in a jumper and then knifed through the defense for a layup. Two free throws by Harden put the Thunder up 75-64 at the 4:39 mark.
Sacramento played the game without leading scorer Marcus Thornton, who suffered a left quad contusion in Wednesday’s game against San Antonio.
NOTES: Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 1961-62. … Thomas was given the annual Oscar Robertson Triple-Double award, which signifies excellence both on and off the court. . Trailing by seven points in the game’s first 5 minutes, the Thunder outscored the Kings 22-6 the remainder of the period to take a 32-23 lead into the second. … Angered over some non-calls following a flurry of blocked shots by the Thunder late in the second quarter, Smart got a technical foul. . Kings veteran John Salmons missed his 14th straight game with sore hip and appears unlikely to return this season.